FIA's new clampdown on radio communication has the teams fired up and the fans excited.
If one were to describe what F1 is to someone that isn’t too au fait with all there is about F1, it certainly won’t be too far from the truth if one described it as a dense collection of some of the best engineers, aero dynamists, engine homologation experts and mathematicians selected and handpicked with intricate detail from the world’s best universities with the goal of infinitesimal precision on all matters related to the computational fluid dynamics (CFD), which gives structure to software and architecture of F1 cars which the boffins hope, would provide a framework for the simulator which, for all intensive purposes, is a computer game that enables driver preferences and tweaks for the twenty-two circuits on the calendar. *Takes a second to breathe*
The unending flow of quantitative data is incessantly exchanged predominantly from the ‘boffins’, to the driver during practice sessions, during qualifying sessions and during the race. Yet it doesn’t end there. As we know there are currently (until further notice) eleven teams in F1 and although the competition between these teams can often be at fever pitch at every single circuit but no, the competition doesn’t cease there; each team has two drivers and the only barometer of a driver’s individual relative performance is often his competitor his teammate.
The engineer's role
Each driver has an assigned engineer to optimise their own performance and the relationship between a driver and his personal engineer(s) is perhaps the most nuanced and delicate of all engineering relationships, and it is in the interest of each unit (driver plus engineer) to maximise the potential of their package every weekend a race occurs.
Therefore, where it does end up is that a driver is often helped, corner by corner, chicane by chicane, straight by straight, kink by kink, roll by roll, torque by speed, fuel by gauge, lift the throttle or hit the gas ... Every time the driver has a better or worse relative time compared with the rest of their competition.
When asked by GPUpdate what would be permissible and what won’t be, the FIA issued a new directive, banning the extent to which what is described as “driver aids” will no longer be accepted. Enunciated, this means that drivers will have less reliance on and support from the engineers on where they ought to gain lap times or save fuel, or reduce tyre pressures. Racing purists here, there and everywhere of course will not believe their luck that perhaps, just perhaps, drivers who rely more on their engineers rather than on their racing instinct will suffer more than the instinctive and intelligent racers who predictably, rely more on instinct and experience to get them through race weekends- especially race days.
The FIA’s Q&A session
Q: Will race control first give a warning if a team goes too far, or will there be an instant sanction?
FIA: With a clear set of guidelines, we see no reason for there to be warnings.
Q: Does Article 20.1 of the Sporting Regulations (stating that a driver must drive the car alone and unaided) only apply to the race or also to practice sessions and qualifying?
FIA: It will apply to the entire event.
Q: Is the message that a driver should come in for a pit-stop a breach of the regulations?
FIA: We think that it would be OK to allow teams to tell drivers when to stop for tyres.
Q: Is a warning that the driver is tight on fuel consumption a breach of the regulations?
FIA: Yes, we believe so. The driver should see that on the dashboard (like a fuel gauge on a road car).
* Q: Are warnings about the condition of the brakes or tyres (slow puncture) still allowed?
FIA: No, this should be displayed to the driver from data gathered onboard, again like a fuel gauge.
Q: Are commands such as SOC 3, MIX 5, FUEL 2 still allowed?
FIA: No, definitely not. This is exactly what we feel infringes Article 20.1.
Q: What about all of the instructions the drivers receive on a formation lap in order to warm up the tyres and brakes, synchronise the gearbox, carry out burnouts and so on?
FIA: None of this would be allowed as again, this is exactly what we feel infringes Article 20.1.
Q: What about team orders (overtake, do not overtake)?
FIA: This should be OK.
Q: What about information regarding traffic in qualifying and the race?
FIA: This will not be a problem.
Q: Will the radio messages of all 22 cars be checked, or just those on the world feed?
FIA: We listen to and record all the conversations.
The litmus test of the type of driver that will of course prevail will be put under the Bunsen burning heat of the Singaporean Grand Prix on September 21- then and only then can a true pattern emerge.
I for one will be watching with unblinking eyes for how the drivers cope with the latest incumbent in the newest iteration of the F1 circus.